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COMMONWEALTH v. BREADY (12/13/71)

decided: December 13, 1971.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
BREADY, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment and sentence of Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, Feb. T., 1970, No. 311, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. John C. Bready, Jr.

COUNSEL

Anthony J. Giangiulio, with him Frederick W. McBrien, III, and Bean, DeAngelis, Kaufman & Giangiulio, for appellant.

William T. Nicholas, First Assistant District Attorney, with him Stewart J. Greenleaf, Assistant District Attorney, and Milton O. Moss, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Wright, P. J., Watkins, Montgomery, Jacobs, Hoffman, Spaulding, and Cercone, JJ. Opinion by Hoffman, J. Jacobs, J., dissents.

Author: Hoffman

[ 220 Pa. Super. Page 158]

This is an appeal from the conviction of a District Justice of the Peace for violating Section 1301 of The Vehicle Code*fn1 by failing to report all fines and penalties to the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue.

At the conclusion of appellant's trial, appellant submitted points for charge which, in essence, would have instructed the jury that the Commonwealth had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that appellant acted wilfully, intentionally, or out of a corrupt motive. The

[ 220 Pa. Super. Page 159]

    lower court refused to charge as requested, charging the jury as follows: "Members of the jury, the statute, the way it is drawn, admits of no exceptions. The statute says, and I will read it again: 'Sworn statements of all fines and penalties collected, and all bail forfeited shall be made by the Magistrate or other Officer imposing or receiving the same upon forms' -- and so forth.

"In other words, it's not a question of whether or not it was a mistake or an inadvertence, but whether or not the fines were all reported. As Mr. Giangiulio [appellant's trial counsel] says, it demands perfection, and indeed it does. Now, it is for you to determine the guilt or innocence of this defendant. Did he or did he not violate the terms and provisions of this section of the Vehicle Code."

Appellant contends that scienter or criminal intent is an essential element of the crime for which he was convicted, and that the lower court therefore erred in not so charging the jury. Section 1301 of The Vehicle Code, however, does not make any reference to intention or wilfullness. Noting this omission, the Commonwealth argues that the Legislature intended the statute to operate as a police regulation which would not require mens rea to sustain a conviction.

The question of whether criminal intent is an essential element of a statutory offense is a matter of statutory construction. Commonwealth v. Weiss, 139 Pa. 247, 21 A. 10 (1891). Whether or not a given statute is to be construed as requiring mens rea "is to be determined by the court by considering the subject matter of the prohibition as well as the language of the statute, and thus ascertaining the intention of the ...


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